We were delighted to welcome the Rev Mark Robinson to speak to us. We had no idea what his subject would be but it proved to be very interesting and enjoyable but most of all very uplifting. Mark brought along his "dog"- a beautiful long-eared cuddly hound which is very low maintenance as he is a huge soft toy! He has no name and has resided in Mark's bedroom for 10 years. It was his first trip out and we all had the opportunity to give him a big hug. He is very special to Mark and in his talk he explained the reason for this.

Mark took us back to his childhood in Trinidad. He was actually born in this country, returning there at the age of two. His parents originated in St Vincent but spent a few years in this country before returning to Trinidad where other family members reside. Trinidad was rich in natural gas so in many ways had become a prosperous country. It is multi-racial and multi-cultural and one of the main religions is Hinduism. Sadly this progress is not continuing as Trinidad is very close to South America and lots of drugs pass through the country generating corruption. Even so, Trinidad is still very much a Christian country and Mark told us that the name Trinidad originates from the word "trinity" as there are 3 main mountain ranges in the country. The oil money was used to provide free education for all but this may not continue due to the economic situation.

Tessa, Mark's wife, met him in Trinidad and they married there. Soon afterwards they spent one year in Hull where their first daughter was born. So that Mark could continue his studies they moved to the USA where their first son was born. Then they moved to Brazil and all four children were with them there. The contrast there between the rich and the poor was an eye-opener to Mark.

In 2000 Mark came to the UK and started to worship at a URC as it was the first church that he came to, even though all his family were Methodists. He felt happy with the theology there and offered to help with the children and young people. Tessa and the two youngest children had remained in Brazil and the two eldest were studying in the USA where there was also family. It was at this time that Mark became very ill, due to an ongoing medical condition, and for one year was unable to work. During this time he met with God and his daily prayer was Exodus ch23 v25. "If you worship me, the Lord your God, I will bless you with food and water and take away all your illnesses". He was in great pain and God was with him. Mark can now identify with people in pain and tell them that God is with them. He emphasised, though, that God is with us in every situation in life.

Tessa and their two youngest were in this country by now and at this time she brought the dog on one of her visits. It was to hold to his chest to keep the pain down after major surgery. The dog became a sign of comfort and caring and Mark felt that he was holding on to God at that time. However, there was one thing that the dog could not do for him and that was to hold on to him as God did for him and does for us.

Mark illustrated his talk with family pictures and scenes from Trinidad. It was a very courageous personal presentation of himself and we were privileged to hear it and learn from it.

Elaine Heard

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